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LIFE AS A MIDDLE MANN

Books I'd like to read...

After wandering around Borders the other night with my wife I decided to post of some of the current books on my, "I'd like to read that someday" list. Born to Buy The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture Juliet B. Schor "The United States is the most consumer-oriented society in the world..." Looks fascinating... Giving How Each of Us Can Change the World Bill Clinton The secular premise and primer on tithing...and written to one of the richest countries in the history of the world...yet the average American only gives 2.6% Freakonomics Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner This one has been out a while and I always read a few pages of it when I find it on a shelf but have never picked it up for myself... The Rough Guide to the iPhone No, I haven't decided for sure to get one...but...if I did, this guy looks fascinating. Shopping for God How Christianity went from in your heart to in your face... James B. Twitchell I'm speaking in February about societal misconceptions of Jesus and this guy might help in my prep... Three Cups of Tea One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations One School at a Time Greg Mortenson I know it's kind of Oprah book clubish but a story about building schools in Pakistan, especially after watching Charlie Wilson's War, is interesting... Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light Mother Teresa A window into Mother Teresa's dark night of the soul and in her own words...evidence one doesn't always 'feel' God in the midst of serving Him Jesus in Beijing How Christianity is Changing China and Changing the Global Balance of Power David Aikman Duh. Mao: The Unknown Story Jung Chang After being in China I started to like this guy and almost bought a shirt... until I realized he might be responsible for more deaths in human history than any other person...hhmm...useful information when planning a wardrobe The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century Thomas L. Friedman Another no-brainer that has been out for a while... The Rabbi's Daughter A Memoir Reva Mann Hadn't seen this before yesterday but it looks interesting...here's the book description since it's not as well known: In this honest, daring, and compulsively readable memoir, Reva Mann paints a portrait of herself as a young woman on the edge—of either revelation or self-destruction. Ricocheting between extremes of rebellion and piety, she is on a difficult but life-changing journey to inner truth. The journey began with an unhappy childhood in a family where religion set the tone and deviations from it were not allowed. But Reva, a granddaughter of the head of the Rabbinic Council of Israel and daughter of a highly respected London rabbi, was a wild child and she rebelled, spiralling into a whirlwind of sex and drugs by the time she reached adolescence. As a young woman, however, Reva had a startling mystical epiphany that led her to a women’s yeshivah in Israel, and eventually to marriage to the devoutly religious Torah scholar who she thought would take her to ever greater heights of spirituality. But can the path to spiritual fulfillment ever be compatible with the ecstasies of the flesh or with the everyday joys of intimacy and pleasure to which she is also strongly drawn? With unflinching candor, Reva shares her struggle to carve out a life that encompasses all the impulses at war within herself. An eye-opening glimpse into the world of the ultra-Orthodox and their elaborately coded rituals for eating, sleeping, bathing, and lovemaking, as well as a deeply personal rumination on identity, faith, and self-acceptance, this is at its heart a universal story. For those of any faith who have grappled with their own spiritual longings, and for anyone fascinated by traditional religion and its role in modern society, Reva Mann’s chronicle of a journey toward redemption is an unforgettable read. Socrates, Buddha, Confucius, Jesus Karl Jaspers Book Description: Arguably the four most influential individuals in human history, Socrates, the Buddha, Confucius and Jesus have cast shadows on history that are nearly inescapable even today. Who were they, what were their doctrines, and what was their influence? Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations Martin Goodman After preaching on the world at the time of Jesus' birth I've been curious about this subject and this book caught my eye. The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything Brian McLaren I've got serious issues with some of McLaren's stuff...but the back of the cover and the direction he takes with this I think I can handle...and it might go with my talk on societal misconceptions of Jesus

Book Description: In The Secret Message of Jesus you'll find what's at the center of Brian's critique of conventional Christianity, and what's at the heart of his expanding vision. In the process, you'll meet a Jesus who may be altogether new to you, a Jesus who is

            • Not the crusading conqueror of religious broadcasting;
            • Not the religious mascot of partisan religion;
            • Not heaven's ticket-checker, whose words have been commandeered by the church to include and exclude, judge and stigmatize, pacify and domesticate.
The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible I think I might actually use my Borders gift card for this guy...looks fascinating and hilarious :) What am I missing? I realize there's not a lot of fiction of this list, I need to work on that. Read anything good lately I should consider? Comment!

To buy or not to buy...

I'm struggling here folks, I really am. I have the least amount of tolerance for ladies spending hundreds of dollars on purses and random shoes yet at the exact same time I find myself contemplating an iPhone, currently tipping the scales at a whopping $399. Is that hypocritical? Probably. Here's where I'm at...if I sell my current phone, the venerable Treo 650, I could probably get around $100 for it...if I add that to some of my Christmas money from work, grandparents and a generous brother I bring my total up to $300. That leaves $100 left to raise. At this point I'm thinking either support letters, selling our dog or returning some of my wife's Christmas gifts. :) So...here's where you come in...I need advice. I either need to be slapped upside the head and told that I have the second best phone in the world and that money could and should be better spent elsewhere OR that I've never thought clearer, I'll never regret this purchase and in some twisted yet true way this advances the Kingdom. The only twist is that I'm a proud T-Mobile customer and there is no way I'm going to even begin to consider paying AT&T's $59.99 monthly data (internet) plan for the iPhone in addition to the rate (phone) plan. Not on my life. So...if I did go this route, I'd have to hack into the iPhone and unlock it, something that many people have supposedly done...then I keep my dirt-cheap T-Mobile rate plan and add internet for either $5 or $20 a month, much better. But what if I couldn't unlock the phone...then what? It's time for you to cast your vote: Yea Heck nay Josh

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Maybe next year...

I had the incredible honor this last weekend to co-preach with our lead pastor at church! We were in a quasi-two week series based on the passage in Luke 2 where the angels say, "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born, he is Christ the Lord." We broke the sermon up into three parts and he took the first two and I took the middle chunk. It was a total blast and I love any opportunity I get to do that! I think it went well and here's the direction I took... My conclusion was that for us to understand what it meant for the shepherds we had to get a better picture of what had gone on and what was going on. The word Christ or Messiah was a huge concept to them and I fear more of a 'last name for Jesus' for us. Also...with the political climate at the day...that phrase the angels said could have gotten someone killed. We took a big picture look at Jewish history and the clues God had placed foreshadowing the coming Messiah and also a look at who ruled the world at the time of Christ's birth, namely Caesar Augustus. I'll post the link to the message as soon as it gets uploaded. My favorite piece of encouragement came from a rough-looking guy who said, "if a junkie came in off the street today, God's story would have made sense, that was really clear from start to finish." Woo hoo! I'm still learning how to do this but I sure am having fun!

Have you heard this?

I don't know what else to say...wow.

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Rob Bell and Time Magazine

Rob Bell...like him or hate him...he's the theologian and pastor to the next generation and a growing population of the current one. He was featured in this week's edition of TIME and a quote from Ben Witherington in that article states, ""He could be one of the most important 21st century Christian leaders." Regardless of how you feel about him or his theology his influence is growing exponentially. 1.2 million Noomas, a couple hundred thousand books, three speaking tours, the second highest religion and spirituality podcast in the country, all while leading and teaching regularly at a fatty church! A fascinating interview with him that was published in Donald Miller and friends weekly online magazine is here and yields some fascinating insight into his growing up life and how he views himself. While I'm not the biggest fan of picking people apart from a distance and really wouldn't appreciate that if it were me; the reality is that those in leadership and positions of influence are scrutinized more closely. Regardless, the guy is stinkin' gifted. I've heard his podcasts, read his books, watched the noomas and even heard him recently up in Portland at a sold-out showing of his latest tour, the gods aren't angry. He is a communicating genius that makes me insecure and inspires me at the same time. He also, through his unique style, gives me permission to be the unique and creative communicator God has wired me to be...an aspect of myself I've struggled in coming to terms with... This post doesn't have that much of a point...he's just an intriguing guy that I haven't figured out and from time to time my thoughts shift to his style, his substance and his influence and it all leaves me pretty blown away.

Chillin' with Crowder

Whenever I hang out with one of my buddies, Erik Williams, another side of me comes out. Erik makes me laugh and brings out a certain kind of humor in me that normally lays dormant. He also can get me to do things I'd NEVER normally do...I have numerous instances of getting talked into random, uncomfortable, or cool situations with Mr W/ a "K". Anyways...our Student Ministries team was at Youth Specialties' National Youth Workers Convention and Erik palled around with us for most of the trip. We all had big events coming up (he had DYC, which I'm speaking at in Feb-woot woot...and we had reach happening two weeks later) so he has the brilliant idea to get and get some of the big name dudes at the conference to do a video plug for our events that we could incorporate into our promotional materials. Erik has done this sort of thing a lot, in fact, I've met Tait and Superchick walking around with him and a video camera. So...the night we have this idea Louie Giglio had just finished speaking, Chris Tomlin had led worship and David Crowder was setting up to lead the following morning. We walk up to Louie and he's totally cool and says a little spiel inviting students to DYC/reach...then we finally get the guts to go ask Crowder who also obliges. Erik had done a goofy video with him before and Crowder actually remembered! At this point...Tomlin had already gone backstage and for some reason the same gutsy guys that had the chutzpah to walk up to these dudes were not comfortable walking behind the curtains to go backstage. For some reason I was feeling gutsy and daring and I'm like, "follow me, here we go! Just act confident and no one will think anything, I learned that from my thieving days :)" We walked back, looked around and then found him just as he was walking onto his tour bus...rats! Well...here's what they did for us...it turned out pretty sweet and was a great promo and intro for our event!

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Made in China...

We made one big gift purchase for ourselves in China (other than going to see Henry and Ronaldinho play for Barcelona, wow!) and that was this custom, hand-painted calligraphy piece. We made a buddy one night walking through Beijing and after chatting for a while he ended up taking us to his studio and doing some original pieces for us. I got one for my office, we had some pieces made for everyone who supported us (don't worry peeps, they're coming, I promise!) and we had this piece made. We FINALLY got it framed after buying a frame online pretty cheap, buying plexiglass and 1/4" backing from home depot, cutting them to size and putting it all together. I felt pretty good after that one! Here it is and in case your Chinese is rusty, here's the translation.
But how can people call for help if they don't know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven't heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? Romans 10:14-17 MSG Here's how it fits in the room...
And yes...that is some new furniture. That's a whole story itself...the coolest part involving selling 3 pieces of a 4-piece furniture set we bought on craigslist almost two years ago for the exact price we paid for it. That means we kept one of the chairs, yet sold the couch, loveseat and coffee table for the same price!! Wow...we practically just borrowed it! But...it was the world's most uncomfortable furniture, in fact, our old couch was so uncomfortable we starting watching movies on my laptop in bed cause I couldn't handle it! We were also ready for something that would last, lord willing, a couple decades. Hence...the lifetime warranty nice sectional...we bit the bullet but hopefully our grandkids will enjoy it! ;)

Scuba Dude!

If you say that just right it sounds like scooby doo...try it. No, really, try it! See! Anyways...I've officially completed my academic and pool portions of becoming scuba-certified and I can take that little bad boy with me on our cruise in January and complete the open water dives there, how handy is that!?! The scuba thing was a lot of fun yet took a little getting used to. I had a hard time 'popping my ears' (think of being on a plane and as the change in air pressure fluctuates you need to clear your sinuss'e's) underwater but by the end figured it out a bit. You need to clear your sinuses about every three feet, that surprised me. I can't wait to get in more than 7 ft deep water and begin to see more than band-aids and dead skin on the bottom (the bottoms of pools are grosser than you'd think when you hang out there for a while). I love wildlife and am excited to get this opportunity. How do I look?

2007 CRASH Academy Awards

Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats as the lights are about to dim. We had the first annual CRASH Academy Awards on Wednesday and we watched 8 videos that were all made by students. Each grade group (6th grade boys, 6th grade girls, etc) came up with an original idea and had a month to film it. We gave out golden rhinos that looked like this... We had a red carpet...a picture area...a live camera feed from the red carpet as Kevbo interviewed guests as they arrived, it was awesome as it played on the screens inside...students got dressed up...we served them cookies and sparking cider and it was a total blast. Even our leaders dressed up to 'present' different awards and the best leader outfit definitely had to go to Grant Jensen with his ZZ Top impersonation, very nice! We had a total blast and will DEFINITELY do it again next year... And we had the students vote on their favorite video...the following video from the 8th grade boys won in a landslide...enjoy and check out all the other videos on youtube here!

What kinds of students...

decide to give their lives as missionaries or feel called by God to be missionaries? Have you ever wondered about that? Is it purely random or do certain personality types or kids with certain kinds of families and experiences that end up serving overseas? Well, I wonder about that and I'm sitting down right now to write my final paper for a class I'm in called data-driven decisions. It's way more fascinating than it sounds...but the point of the final paper was to do some data-gathering and then use that to inform a decision I need to make. The decision I need to make is two-fold...is a one-day event with middle school through college kids focused on missions an effective way to increase the missions value among our students and generate a pool of students that are preparing to serve overseas? The second part is, is there any significant differences between the students who went forward to commit their lives as missionaries and those who didn't? The last part which will take the next 10 years to figure out is...what are the factors that determine whether or not a student who made a commitment actually ends up on the field? So...me and my buddy survey monkey sent out a survey to about 225 students of the 325ish or so that were at our event to tell us a little bit about themselves and their experience at reach on Dec 2. So...I need to crunch some numbers, see what I see, and then write what I see...fun and exciting on one hand, and on the other...i'll be in this coffee shop for like the next 5 hours :(

Is it just me...

Or does my mouth look bigger? I mean, I know that the braces are supposed to make things a little bigger but, wow, take a look.
BEFORE
AFTER
I'm just kidding...here's the new me! No pain yet...but I'll keep you updated.

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Brace Yourself

Or myself...whichever the case may be. Yes, it's true. A week ago I walked into the orthodontist's office because my dad has been bugging me for years about getting braces and most recently my wife has been encouraging me to get braces. So, I go to the orthodontist, not to get braces, but to see how badly I need braces. I ask him, "on a scale of 1-10, 1 being I don't need braces and 10 being I absolutely must have braces, where would you rate me?" Now, at this point I'm totally expecting like a 4, I don't think of my teeth as that bad! He replies, "9." I just laughed, I couldn't believe it. Needless to say, seven days later it will be official. In 10 minutes my appointment begins, to get braces. Here's the complimentary before picture, stay tuned for TWO whole years for the after picture, i hope it's worth it!

What's up fools? Just trying out texting to my blog...if this shows up that means it works!